Multiple online education options exist. One that many parents aren’t familiar with is online public schooling. It’s a tuition-free option offered in many states. With an online public school, students get the flexibility of online learning as well as the benefit of support from school administrators, counselors, and state-certified teachers. And in states that don’t have an online public school option, private online schools are another good alternative. While not tuition-free, they still have all the other benefits of online learning.
No two children are alike, and it’s important to provide an education that can be tailored to meet a variety of needs and learning styles. Online schools enable individually paced learning and can help students move ahead or get on track. In fact, one of the greatest benefits online students report is that they love the ability to work at their own pace. They can spend more time on a subject they find difficult or breeze through a subject that makes perfect sense.
And while parental involvement is still needed — especially in the younger grades — having more control over pacing helps students of all ages develop independence and build important life skills such as learning how to manage multiple priorities and meet deadlines.
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Online schooling often allows military families to take a first-rate American education with them wherever they go. All that’s needed is a computer and an Internet connection. With online schooling, students don’t have to deal with interruptions in their education, regardless of where their family is stationed. Many online schools allow students to stay enrolled in the same school no matter how frequently they move, eliminating the need for course content repetition or exclusion from honors or Advanced Placement® (AP®) courses. And when situations arise, such as deployments, that necessitate temporary changes in a child’s living arrangement, school can be one thing that stays the same.
Online schools offer a more flexible schedule than brick-and-mortar schools. Because students in online schools have more control over when and where they do school, they can adapt their schedules to accommodate involvement in music, the arts, sports, and social, church and community activities.
Online learning also provides flexibility in choosing the order in which students study different subjects. In lower grades especially, students can usually set their daily schedule according to their preferences. Some students like to tackle their more difficult subjects first and leave their favorite subjects for later in the day. Others choose to do the opposite. Online schooling can give them that freedom.
Online schools are often able to offer a wider range of subjects and electives. In a brick-and-mortar school, students are usually limited in which courses they are able to take based on whether the school has a teacher for that particular subject.
Many high school students enroll in online programs specifically for access to AP courses that may not be offered at their local school. When completed successfully, AP courses can cut a college tuition bill by hundreds or even thousands of dollars. In addition to saving money, AP credits can earn money as well, as many scholarship providers take AP work into consideration when awarding financial aid to students.
Students interested in gaining an edge through career and technical education (CTE) courses, find that some online schools offer CTE classes or have dual-enrollment options with one or more colleges or universities. Earning both high school and college credit gives them an academic advantage and improves the chances of attending the college of their choice. In addition, students earning college credits in high school may take lighter course loads in college and graduate early. Earning college credits in high school also means families can significantly reduce the cost of college tuition.
While online public schools enable truly individualized learning and flexibility in pace, schedule, and learning styles, they also come with the structure, administrative support, oversight and accountability associated with brick-and-mortar schools. The level of support will differ depending on the program.
Top programs employ teachers specifically trained in online teaching to instruct and monitor students, run web-based classes, hold online office hours, and be available by phone, chat, and email to answer student and parent questions. Some include live, online class sessions in which teachers can lecture, show videos, conduct demonstrations, and hold group discussions. Parents are given tools such as teaching guides, suggested schedules, complete lesson plans, and opportunities to network with other parents.
The best programs also offer opportunities for students to explore their interests and develop friendships through virtual clubs and competitions such as science fairs, art contests, and much more. Many online schools also offer in-person events, such as trips to museums and historical sites, prom and graduation ceremonies.
Online public schools have to meet the same requirements as brick-and-mortar schools. And online students take the same standardized tests as their traditional-school counterparts. Students who graduate from online public schools attend some of the top U.S. colleges and universities.
When choosing a program, look for one that’s fully accredited and offers a research-based, quality curriculum; academic support from administrators, counselors, and state-certified teachers; and an active virtual community.
In short, online public schooling can offer students learning, stimulation, growth, fun, and social interaction while helping them develop critical and creative thinking skills that will set them on the path to a successful future — academically and in life.